Sean Bresnahan, 1916 Societies PRO, reflects on the state sanctioned murder of IRA Volunteer Liam Ryan, whose 25th anniversary occurs next week.
Liam Ryan was 39 years old when shot dead by the UVF in the hallway of the Battery Bar, by the shores of Lough Neagh near Ardboe, on 29th November 1989, 25 years ago in a matter of days. The weapons used in Liam’s murder – and that of his friend Michael Devlin – who died alongside him the night he was killed – were part of a South African contingent brought into Ireland by key agent of British Military Intelligence and prize asset in loyalist paramilitarism, the infamous Brian Nelson.
But not only did Britain arm the death squads, who tortured Tyrone and Mid-Ulster all through those frightening years. It directed them and pulled the strings. We know from the myriad details disclosed and arising from the Nelson case itself that they provided the targets, safe passage and whatever else it took. The killings at the Battery were no different.
Indeed Liam had been repeatedly threatened with assassination in the weeks and months leading up to his death, being told in a chilling forewarning by the local RUC, ‘you’ll be shot dead by Christmas’. Despite the area being saturated with Crown Forces throughout the day, by the time the killers arrived on the scene to do their foul deed, the roads, as always, had been cleared for them – a recurring phenomenon in many assassinations in Tyrone and the wider Mid-Ulster area.
This is no coincidence. Liam and Michael’s heinous killings were not an isolated happening and formed part of a terrifying campaign of state-sponsored murder, orchestrated from the highest offices of the British state, up to and including the Thatcher government in power at the time. For years people said republicans were crazy – that the British would never behave like this – but the truth is slowly coming out: bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece. They are guilty of every charge laid against them and more. They know it and they are covering it up.
The souls of Liam Ryan and Michael Devlin, of Tommy Casey, Kathleen O’Hagan and Roseanne Mallon, Dwayne, John, Malcolm and Tommy, who died at Cappagh, Paddy Shanahan, Patsy Kelly, Phelim McNally, the dozens more who were victims of collusion, who were killed by proxies of a state up to its neck in the squalor of a systematic terror campaign waged against the ordinary people of Tyrone and beyond, their souls all demand justice and justice will be done.
Justice will be done because the families, the loved one’s of those murdered under such obscene circumstances, will never give up until they get the answers they deserve. And we will stand with them for as long as it takes. Britain will one day stand in the dock – its terrorist crimes in Ireland exposed – no matter how many years, no matter how long the struggle, no matter what obstacles they put in our way.